What are you working on these days?
Together with my composing partner, husband, and co-founder of “Eremia-du-Arte Music,” Jairo Duarte-Lopez, we are currently working on the soundtrack for the indie feature, “Fear Of A Black Planet,” an independent film by Detdrich McClure.
This is our second collaboration with Detdrich, the first one being “Brown Paper Bag” in 2019, which won Best Film and Best Director at the San Diego Black Film Festival last year. It is a detective film noir, set in the 1940s. The score was mostly based on jazz elements around this period.
Detdrich is an African-American filmmaker, who likes to write and direct his own films. He also likes to deal with social issues from a rather unique perspective.
“Fear Of A Black Planet” tackles the current racial tension we are experiencing in the United States. It tells the story of a bi-racial couple, focusing on the girl, who is African-American, and a recent graduate from the police academy. She gets caught in the middle of a riot in downtown LA and is saved by an artist who happens to be a white girl living in a warehouse. Later, we learn that the white girl is also part of a group of white supremacists who are plotting a bank robbery. There is a bit of an influence from films such Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs”.
Is there a project that you feel particularly proud of, or that helped your career?
In 2007, Jairo and I composed the chamber work, “Car Crash Opera”, as the soundtrack for an animated film by Skip Battaglia. Since the animation would take a long time to be finalized, we composed the music as a stand-alone work that could be performed live before the film would be completed. Our score was then selected and showcased at the 2009 New York City Opera’s VOX Festival. This was a very special experience for us, as we got to collaborate with the New York City Opera’s singers and orchestra, as well as with now world-renowned opera producer Yuval Sharon.
This project led to two other opera commissions with Montclair State University and the Cincinnati Opera.
How did you become involved in the Toronto Blue Jays theme? What was the most interesting, informative aspect of working on that project?
While attending graduate school at the Eastman School of Music, we were recommended by a director to a producer at Sportsnet Ontario. We submitted two orchestral demos and were hired to compose and record the orchestral main theme for the Toronto Blue Jays 2008 season. With the budget they provided us, we were able to assemble a 55-piece orchestra of Eastman students and recorded the music less than a week before it aired. It was a fun project and a great experience to work with a larger ensemble within a time restriction. The music was used for two years and it was played both on TV and at the stadium during the Blue Jays games.
Could you tell us about MotiVibes Music? What have you learned from that experience?
Motivibes Music is a songwriting and production duo that includes myself and my friend, a great lyricist, and co-founder of “Motivibes Music,” Elizabeth Breese.
We have recently signed with Bentley Records and are currently working on multiple projects, including writing a song for a Grammy-award winning artist Jackie’s Boy.
I find that writing the underscore, as well as songs for a film, has been a very rewarding experience for me. Often, there are elements that feed both parts of the soundtrack, and therefore the sense of cohesiveness is even stronger. The approach may be different, but that’s what I find always so refreshing.
What advice would you give a younger Michaela?
I would advise myself to be more practical and focus on quantity. At the beginning it is important to develop the habit and the “muscles” for composing with a feeling of certainty. Quality and our “unique voice” will inevitably be developed gradually, by consistently composing whether we have a project or not.
Interview by Valerie Manahan
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